Encircling Empire: Report #13—Revolution, Intervention, Anthropology

Posted on March 7, 2011 by


Encircling Empire: Report #13—Revolution, Intervention, Anthropology

Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period. They are intended to be useful for those interested in: ● contemporary and critical political anthropology ● public anthropology ● imperialism and imperial decline ● militarism/militarization ● the political economy of the world system ● hegemony and soft power ● counterinsurgency ● revolution ● rebellion ● resistance ● protest ● activism ● advocacy ● critique.

This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.

In this report, first two maps of social media penetration in the Middle East and North Africa, in relation to ongoing revolts; then, a long overdue catalogue of anthropologists writing online about the revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa; then a series of opposing items, those dealing with rejections of any foreign military intervention in Libya (a position best articulated by Fidel Castro), followed by statements by what would otherwise be willing interventionists, in the U.S. government, who find multiple problems with imposing a no-flight-zone, and then those articles and statements  that strongly favour intervention, and the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P); finally, we end with notes on empire at work in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Given that this is our longest report yet, here is a minor short cut—our top recommendations in no particular order:

  1. “The narcissism of the iPad imperialists who want to invade Libya,” Brendan O’Neill, The Telegraph (blogs), 25 February 2011
  2. “High Risks for Acting Now,” Kori Schake, 02 March 2011
  3. Security Council–SC/10187–Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York: Security Council, 6491st Meeting: “In Swift, Decisive Action, Security Council Imposes Tough Measures on Libyan Regime, Adopting Resolution 1970 in Wake of Crackdown on Protesters”
  4. US defence secretary Robert Gates slams ‘loose talk’ about no-fly zones” The Guardian, 03 March 2011
  5. “In one of final addresses to Army, Gates describes vision for military’s future,” Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, 25 February 2011
  6. “The militarization of aid and its perils,” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 22 February 2011
  7. “All-American Decline in a New World: Wars, Vampires, Burned Children, and Indelicate Imbalances,” by Tom Engelhardt, 25 February 2011
  8. Resonance and the Egyptian Revolution , byGastón Cordillo

MAPPING SOCIAL MEDIA AND REVOLUTION

Libya Crisis Map – “The CrisisMappers Standby Task Force has been undertaking a mapping of social media, news reports and official situation reports from within Libya and along the borders at the request of OCHA. The Task Force is also aiding in the collection and mapping of 3W information for the response. UNOSAT is kindly hosting the Common Operational Datasets to be used during the emergency. Interaction with these groups is being coordinated by OCHA’s Information Services Section.”

Technology and Revolution—How Wired are the Middle East and North Africa? surprisingly little, it turns out, which makes one wonder why some call Egypt the “Facebook revolution” when 5.49% of Egypt’s population uses Facebook. What is astounding, and either understated or ignored altogether, is the vast range of cell phone users.

ANTHROPOLOGISTS AND FIELD REPORTS ON THE ARAB REVOLUTIONS

The following are listed in no particular order, and each one is a highly recommended resource/essay.

Essays:

From Canada’s newest blogging anthropologist, Gastón Cordillo at the University of British Columbia, two essays on the embodiment of revolution, a thought provoking series on “resonance,” taking political agitation to the physical level:

Resonance and the Egyptian Revolution

“What has coalesced as a powerful, unstoppable force on the streets of Egypt is resonance: the assertive collective empathy created by multitudes fighting for the control of space. Resonance is an intensely bodily, spatial, political affair, materialized in the masses of bodies coming together in the streets of Egyptian cities in the past thirteen days, clashing with the police, temporarily dispersed by teargas and bullets, and regrouping again like an relentless swarm to reclaim the streets, push the police back, and saturate space with a collective effervescence. Resonance is what gives life to this human rhizome and the source of its power….”

The Speed of Revolutionary Resonance

“The current wave of revolutionary insurrections seems to be the fastest in history. Revolutions always come in waves, but insurgent shockwaves that once expanded across continents over years or months are now making states crumble, one after another, in a matter of weeks. As the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are rapidly followed by widespread rebellions in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and now Oman, it is clear that these are not just events but nodes of acceleration, which shoot out high-speed resonances in all directions and make millions of bodies fight oppression in myriad places at the same time. This political whirlwind is a distance-dissolving machine. It is also an evolving constellation that shifts its form and pulsation because of the striated nature of the global terrain, one day creating moments of joyful exhilaration on Tahrir Square and a few days later facing unrestrained state violence in Libya. In these mutating territories, we seem to be witnessing an epochal clash between new revolutionary velocities and the old, increasingly eroded supremacy of the state in controlling means of speed-creation….”

“Power, realpolitik, and freedom: Egypt and US Ideals about Freedom” – Ryan Anderson, Ethnografix

“Democracy, it seems, only applies here at home. When it comes to a distant population like the people of Egypt, it seems that many people are willing to sidestep all of the rhetoric about political freedom and openly advocate supporting a repressive policy state, all in the name of ‘our interests’….”

“Democracy or Extremism? Political Ideals and Egypt” – Ryan Anderson, Ethnografix

“The US has a pretty confusing–if not outright contradictory–history of foreign policy. On the surface, we supposedly are the champions of democracy, human rights, and freedom. Right? Those are the ideals that the nation was founded upon, and they continue to play a primary role in the political rhetoric and overall idealism of its people. However….”

“Autocrats, democracy, and pragmatism” – Ryan Anderson, Ethnografix

“Over on a political blog that I check every now and again, one of the respondents to this post argues that the US should keep supporting Mubarak (despite that fact that he’s a SOB), and that they would be perfectly content if the conditions of the last 30 years continued unabated. This is one strain of realpolitik that has been pretty common in certain circles the last few days, one that is akin to a long-running foreign policy philosophy that has reigned in the US for decades….”

“Events in Egypt (everything is fine love the Egypt government)” – Ryan Anderson, Ethnografix

“One of the most blatant moves of the Egyptian government was the decision to close down social media (internet access, cell phone use, etc) to attempt to control popular unrest. Not a good decision–and this speaks to the power of these tools when it comes to political organization and expression. Of course, this whole story is developing as we speak, so it remains to be seen how things will play out….”

Reports from the Field:

The Egyptian Revolution: First Impressions from the Field - Mohammed A. Bamyeh, Portland State University, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies

“Everyone I talked to echoed similar transformative themes: they highlighted a sense of wonder at how they discovered their neighbor again, how they never knew that they lived in “society” or the meaning of the word, until this event, and how everyone who yesterday had appeared so distant is now so close. I saw peasant women giving protestors onions to help them recover from teargas attacks; young men dissuading others from acts of vandalism; the National Museum being protected by protestors’ human shield from looting and fire; protestors protecting captured baltagiyya who had been attacking them from being harmed by other protestors; and countless other incidents of generous civility amidst the prevailing destruction and chaos.

“I also saw how demonstrations alternated between battle scenes and debating circles, and how they provided a renewable spectacle in which everyone could see the diverse segments in social life converging on the common idea of bringing down the regime. While world media highlighted uncontrolled chaos, regional implications, and the specter of Islamism in power, the ant’s perspective revealed the relative irrelevance of all of the above considerations. As the Revolution took longer and longer to accomplish the mission of bringing down the regime, protestors themselves began to spend more time highlighting other accomplishments, such as how new ethics were emerging precisely amidst chaos. Those evidenced themselves in a broadly shared sense of personal responsibility for civilization—voluntary street cleaning, standing in line, the complete disappearance of harassment of women in public, returning stolen and found objects, and countless other ethical decisions that had usually been ignored or left for others to worry about….”

“‘You’ll be Late for the Revolution!’ An Anthropologist’s Diary of the Egyptian Revolution” – Samuli Schielke, Jaddaliya

“On 28 January, as millions went out all over the country, I booked my ticket to Cairo for a short visit, with the aim of making myself an idea of the atmosphere, of the sensibility of life of an uprising that had completely taken me by surprise. As an anthropologist, my work in the last years has focussed on the aspirations people have, the frustrations they experience, and the ways they try to find to live a life of dignity under constantly frustrating conditions. But I had not taken seriously the possibility that there would emerge a sudden collective consciousness that it is actually possible to change these conditions. Just days before 25 January, a friend asked whether there could be a revolution in Egypt like there was in Tunisia, and I said no, I don’t think so, because it seems so difficult to mobilise the people in Egypt, and for decades people have expected a revolution to break out in Egypt, but it hasn’t. Well, now it has, and much of what I thought I knew about Egyptian society has to be revised. But much more than revising academic knowledge is now at stake, and the short week I spent in Egypt from 31 January to 6 February also has changed me and my priorities….in the course of a week I transformed from an anthropological observer sympathetic with the events, into an activist committed to the sake of revolution even at personal risk. Personal and political transformation often go hand in hand….”

“The Egyptian Protests: A View from the Ground (The Beginning)” - Gregory Johnsen, Big Think

“…one of the doormen leads police to us.  They separate the Egyptians from the foreigners.  The foreigners they escort out to the street and tell us to go home.  The Egyptians they take away.”

“The Egyptian Protests: A View from the Ground (Neighborhood Watch)” - Gregory Johnsen, Big Think

“It became clear to me what was going to happen.  Mubarak was going to make a play for power essentially attempting to convince people that a police state with him was better than chaos without him.  And that is exactly what happened. There were three groups of looters – undercover thugs from the regime, prisoners that escaped/were set free and other elements looking for free stuff….”

Roundups:

“A wonderful development” – Anthropologists on the Egypt Uprising (updated 6.2.) antropologi.info

One of Lorenz Khazaleh’s excellent overview essays of a range of anthropologists writing about the Egyptian uprising.

“Saba Mahmood: Democracy is not enough – Anthropologists on the Arab revolution part II” antropologi.info

Lorenz does it again, his second overview essays featuring many excellent essays, reports, and other resources produced by anthropologists.

Martijn de Koning at CLOSER (Anthropology of Muslims in Europe) is continuing a weekly series of roundups of essays, news, and other documents on the ongoing protests and uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa—see for example:

“Tunisia and Egypt uprisings – selected bookmarks” – John Postill, media/anthropology

A very useful collection of some of the essays and reports dealing with the role of the broadcast media, as well as social media, and Wikileaks, with reference to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

AGAINST FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION IN LIBYA

Fidel Castro—Reflections from Fidel: NATO’s Inevitable War, Part 1

“Imperialism and NATO – seriously concerned about the revolutionary wave unleashed in the Arab world, which produces a large portion of the oil sustaining the consumer economies of the rich, developed countries – could not miss the opportunity to take advantage of Libya’s internal conflict to promote a military intervention. The statements formulated by the United States government from early on were clearly in this vein. The circumstances could hardly be more propitious….”

Fidel Castro—Reflections from Fidel: NATO’s Inevitable War, Part 2

“We totally abstained from expressing any opinions concerning the concepts of the Libyan leadership. We can clearly see that the fundamental concern of the United States and NATO is not Libya, but the revolutionary wave unleashed in the Arab world, which they wish to prevent at all costs. It is an irrefutable fact that relations between the United States and its NATO allies in recent years were excellent until the rebellion in Egypt and in Tunisia arose. In high-level meetings between Libya and NATO leaders, none of the latter had any problems with Gaddafi. The country was a secure source of high-quality oil, gas and even potassium supplies. The problems which arose between them in the early decades had been overcome….”

Fidel Castro—Reflections from Fidel: NATO’s plan is to occupy Libya

“One can be in agreement with Gaddafi or not. The world has been invaded with all kind of news, especially through the mass media. We shall have to wait the time needed to discover precisely how much is truth or lies, or a mix of the events, of all kinds, which, in the midst of chaos, have been taking place in Libya. What is absolutely evident to me is that the government of the United States is totally unconcerned about peace in Libya and will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, possibly in a matter of hours or a few days.”

USA Today, Editors: “Our view: No-fly zone in Libya holds more risks than rewards,” 04 March 2011:

“When a crisis like the one in Libya arises, replete with barbaric actions by a dictator against his own people, calls for U.S. military action follow like a spasmodic reflex. Americans see people in trouble, want to help and look to the military to deliver a quick, effective, cost-free blow. But that impulse rarely produces the desired result, which makes the chorus calling for a no-fly zone over Libya sound gratingly off-key, despite the good intentions and notable credentials of some of the advocates….”

“Chavez proposes talks for Libya: Venezuelan president calls for mediation to end crisis while the US and other powers weigh military options,” Al Jazeera English, 01 March 2011: “ ‘We want a peaceful solution … We support peace in the Arab world and in the whole world.’…Chavez said it was better to seek ‘a political solution instead of sending marines to Libya, and better to send a good will mission than for the killing to continue.’ Al Jazeera’s Dima Khatib, reporting from Caracas, said the comments come from ‘Chavez’s ideology that the south can come up with solutions for the south.’… Chavez repeated his warning that the US wanted to invade Libya to get oil, a view that has been voiced by both Cuba and Nicaragua. ‘He is worried that the United States is after the Libyan oil, just like they were after the Iraqi oil. He says that they have gone mad because of the Libyan oil; it’s driving them crazy,’ our correspondent said. ‘He also wondered why doesn’t the world condemn the massacres in Falluja, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’…”

“Chavez says he won’t condemn Libya’s Gadhafi,” Christopher Toothaker, Associated Press, 01 March 2011: Hugo Chavez: “We must be prudent. We know what our political line is: We don’t support invasions, or massacres, or anything like that no matter who does it. A campaign of lies is being spun together regarding Libya.”

“Venezuela: US, allies fomenting Libya’s violence,” Christopher Toothaker, Associated Press, 25 February 2011: “Venezuela’s top diplomat on Thursday echoed Fidel Castro’s accusation that Washington and its allies are fomenting unrest in Libya to justify an invasion to seize North African nation’s oil reserves. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro claimed the United States and other powerful countries are trying to create a movement inside Libya aimed at toppling Moammar Gadhafi. Maduro did not condemn or defend the violent crackdown on Libyans participating in the popular uprising against Gadhafi’s long rule. He called for a peaceful solution to the upheaval in Libya and questioned the veracity of media reports on the bloody uprising, which has crept closer to Gadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli. ‘They are creating conditions to justify an invasion of Libya,’ Maduro said. ‘Libya is going through difficult times, which should not be measured with information from imperial news agencies,’ Maduro added, referring to Western media. Gadhafi has been a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Chavez’s political opponents have strongly criticized those close relations. In a Twitter message Thursday, Venezuela’s leftist president said: ‘Viva Libya and its independence! Gadhafi is facing a civil war.’…”

“The narcissism of the iPad imperialists who want to invade Libya,” Brendan O’Neill, The Telegraph (blogs), 25 February 2011: “In a modern political sphere that has its fair share of narcissists and ignoramuses, no one is quite as narcissistic or as ignorant as the liberal interventionist. From the comfort of his Home Counties home, possibly to the sound of birds tweeting on the windowsill, the liberal interventionist will write furious, spittle-stained articles about the need to invade faraway countries in order to topple their dictators. As casually and thoughtlessly as the rest of us write shopping lists, he will pen a 10-point plan for the bombing of Yugoslavia or Afghanistan or Iraq and not give a second thought to the potentially disastrous consequences. Now, having learned nothing from the horrors that they cheer-led like excitable teenage girls over the past 15 years, these bohemian bombers, these latte-sipping lieutenants, these iPad imperialists are back. This time they’re demanding the invasion of Libya….”

“Stop the War Coalition statement on Middle East revolutions,” Stop War UK, 25 February 2011: “There must be no US or British intervention in Libya: the future of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen. must be determined by the people of those countries alone. The uprisings sweeping the Middle East deserve the support of all progressive people. They are directed against autocracies which have denied their people basic rights and the possibility of a decent life. These autocracies have also, for the most part, depended on the self-interested support of the big powers, the USA and Britain first of all. Western governments have prioritised cheap oil, arms sales and support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians above the rights of the Arab peoples…. The future of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and all the other states facing popular uprisings must be determined by the people of those countries alone. Solidarity with those fighting for their democratic and national freedom is our obligation. We can best discharge it by demanding that the government at long last takes its hands off the Middle East and its people, leaving them to settle accounts with their own rulers.”

Canadian Peace Alliance: “Support the Libyan people. Yes to freedom and democracy across the Arab World! No Military Intervention in Libya”: “The Government of Canada has announced that it will send HMCS Charlottetown to Libya to join the US aircraft carrier fleet led by the USS enterprise. This is part of a much larger NATO led buildup in the area. The Canadian Peace Alliance is opposed to any military intervention in Libya or in the region as a whole. If the western governments were genuine in their desire to help the people of Libya – or Egypt or Tunisia for that matter – they would not have supported the dictators and their regimes. That support for the dictators is a chief reason why the situation is so violent for the people rising up. Western military deployment to Libya is a bit like asking the arsonist to put out their own fire. Far from being a shining light in a humanitarian crisis, western intervention is designed to maintain the status quo and will, in fact make matters worse for the people there.”

“Gadhafi’s LatAm allies show solidarity, caution,” Andrea Rodriguez and Alexandra Olson, Associated Press, 22 February 2011: “The bloody upheaval in Libya is creating an uncomfortable challenge for Moammar Gadhafi’s leftist Latin American allies, with some keeping their distance and others rushing to the defense of a leader they have long embraced as a fellow fighter against U.S. influence in the world. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Tuesday that the unrest may be a pretext for a NATO invasion of Libya, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega offered support for Gadhafi, saying he had telephoned to express solidarity. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, has stayed mute. Bolivia came closest to criticizing the government in Tripoli, issuing a statement expressing concern over ‘the regrettable loss of many lives’ and urging both sides to find a peaceful solution….”

FROM WASHINGTON AND THE UN: PROBLEMS WITH FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTION

US defence secretary Robert Gates slams ‘loose talk’ about no-fly zones” The Guardian, 03 March 2011: While UK Prime Minister David Cameron appears eager to impose a no-flight zone, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (who seems intent on exiting office by covering his tracks with a series of very sober and critical assessments), stated:

“There is a lot of, frankly, loose talk about some of these military options. Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. Then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. That is the way it starts. It also requires more aeroplanes than you would find on a single aircraft carrier. It is a big operation by a big country.”

“Senator: Army could train Libyan opposition in anti-aircraft defense,” Adam Levine, CNN, 03 March 2011:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“We are working to understand who is legitimate, who is not, but it is premature in our opinion to recognize one group or another. I think it’s important to recognize that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the motives, the opportunism, if you will, of people who are claiming to be leaders right now.”

Senator John McCain’s response to Gates:

“McCain seemed to take offense at Gates’ comment Wednesday that there has been a lot of ‘loose talk’ about military options, including the no-fly zone. ‘May I just say personally, I don’t think it’s loose talk on the part of the people on the ground in Libya, nor the Arab League nor others, including the prime minister of England, that this option should be given the strongest consideration. The perception of Libyan pilots who now take off and land and attack pro-revolutionary forces might prove rather cautionary to them if they think that we will stop them and shoot them down if they carry out those missions’….‘Deterrence is always one of the options that we should have available to the national command authority,’ Dempsey agreed. ‘I will say, of course, that my own personal experience is sometimes the way our potential adversaries interpret our deterrent actions is not exactly as we’ve planned it. But deterrence is a valid option’.”

“US signals caution about Libya military intervention,” Lachlan Carmichael, AFP News, 02 March 2011: “In testimony to the US Senate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that any US intervention to help opponents of Moamer Kadhafi would be ‘controversial’ both within Libya and the broader Arab community. She has said that Washington understands the Libyan opposition wants to ‘be seen as doing this by themselves’ as they seek ways to dislodge Kadhafi and his forces from the capital Tripoli and other areas they hold. In a speech on Wednesday, Kadhafi warned that ‘thousands’ would die if the West intervened to support the more than two-week old uprising against him.”

From The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” series, “Should the U.S. Move Against Qaddafi? What are the dangers for the U.S. and the international community in intervening in Libya?”:

“What We Should Know by Now,” John Mueller, 02 March 2011: “But there are a couple of cautions. One is that the experience of the last decade or so does not lead one to be confident that launching military force with woefully inadequate intelligence solves more problems than it creates or that, on balance, it actually ends up saving lives.

The other is that there is danger in posturing dramatically (or sanctimoniously) from outside about supporting an embattled side and then failing adequately to follow up with quick and effective action, which is often impossible to put together. The danger of coupling vast proclamation with limited action is that it can encourage people desperately to hold out in hopeless situations waiting for the promised, or seemingly promised, deliverance from outside.”

“No Clear Playbook,” Camille Eiss, 02 March 2011: “But deciding to act requires understanding where our leverage with Colonel Qaddafi and his henchmen lies. Do assets matter against power? Beyond the challenges of establishing a no-flight zone, will one prevent murderers from fighting on the ground? The sad reality in the case of Libya is that we have no clear playbook. So far, the best strategy may be the administration’s approach to other recent uprisings: focus on nonviolence and let Libyans be the primary players. With international partners who share this responsibility, the U.S. should intervene as necessary to promote these goals and to fulfill our responsibility to protect civilians and to end the violence. More extensive U.S. involvement might only muddy the indigenous democratic process, undermining our long term efforts to support free societies and a more stable region.”

“First, Define the Goals,” Steven Simon, 02 March 2011: “…armed intervention in an unfolding civil war would pose far greater risks. Again, the issue would be, what are we intervening for? If it is merely to put our thumb on the opposition’s side of the scales, by, say, intercepting regime aircraft, as the rebels have requested, or even staging air raids on airbases under the regime’s control, the risk to U.S. forces would be limited. The Navy, or Air Force if staging from NATO bases, could do this without breathing hard. But even for these limited missions, the U.S. would probably want to make sure that Libyan air defenses are unable to hinder U.S. air operations, which would mean a wider range of ground targets, with all the risk of collateral damage and loss of aircrews to accident or a lucky Libyan shot. And the mission would have to continue, perhaps for a long while, especially if Qaddafi’s air forces stood down, to wait out the U.S. presence. At that point, the U.S. would risk losing the battle for public opinion.”

“What Military Force Will Require,” Bruce W. Jentleson, 02 March 2011: “Intervention will require more than the United States and NATO. For reasons of history, power and politics a strictly Western intervention would be highly problematic. U.N. Security Council authorization is crucial. Russian and Chinese opposition has to be overcome. Efforts should continue to get African Union support. So, too, is support from the Arab League, though the opposition by the Organization of the Islamic Conference makes this unlikely.”

“A Logical, but Difficult, Step,” Richard Fontaine, 02 March 2011: “But, as General James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, said at a Senate hearing, taking out Libyan air defenses, ‘wouldn’t be just telling people not to fly airplanes.’ It would also imply risking American lives and possibly shooting down Libyan aircraft. The effort is even tougher at the diplomatic level. The administration would surely prefer to proceed with any military action under a United Nations mandate, which would require Russian agreement. But Moscow has already rejected the idea of a U.N.-authorized no-flight zone. NATO could carry out the mission outside U.N. authorization, as it did during the Kosovo war, but France has said that such a mission could go forward only with U.N. approval — and it’s unclear where other members stand. So the United States might be stuck, unable to get U.N. or NATO authorization, witnessing continued aerial bombings, and having to choose between doing nothing or pulling together a coalition of the willing.”

“High Risks for Acting Now,” Kori Schake, 02 March 2011: “we ought to be very cautious about actually using American military force to affect the rebellion in Libya, for four reasons. First, it is difficult to see what practical measures, short of removing Colonel Gaddafi ourselves or sending military teams into Libya to assist rebel forces, would affect the fight…. Second, we have not had an ambassador in Libya for months, and we have evacuated our diplomats; we ought not overestimate how much we understand what is occurring in the country or the shape Libya’s rebellion will take…. Third, debate over the Security Council resolution suggests it is unlikely the Chinese and Russians would authorize the use of force (they had to be assured the resolution that passed would not), and NATO would not be an alternative without a U.N. mandate…. Fourth, military force is sticky — once the president commits American military forces to involvement, even tangentially, he commits the nation. It is difficult to disengage if the limited force committed doesn’t achieve the president’s objectives….”

“Top powers split over Libya options: Amid calls for a no-fly zone, Russia and France caution against military intervention without UN authorization,” Al Jazeera English, 01 March 2011: “Russia has however described the no-fly zone idea as “superfluous” and along with France cautioned against moving militarily against Gaddafi without UN authorization….”

CALLS FOR INTERVENTION: ON THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (R2P)

“Obama’s Choice: To Intervene or Not in Libya,” Mark Landler, The New York Times, 05 March 2011: “Mr. Obama’s blunt call last Thursday for Colonel Qaddafi to leave office, coupled with a threat to leave all military options on the table if he doesn’t, made it clear that the president believes the United States cannot stand by while Libyan jets bomb civilians. But his reluctance to talk about the most obvious measure — a no-flight zone over the country — reveals his qualms about thrusting the United States into a volatile situation in a region where foreign intervention is usually viewed as cynical neo-colonialism….The fact that protesters in Egypt and Tunisia were able to drum out their leaders without the help of American F-16s is viewed inside the White House as a big victory. Making sure that young Arabs feel “ownership” of their political movements has been a central piece of the administration’s strategy, even if it has exposed Mr. Obama to criticism that he is not doing enough to stop violence when it occurs….He won’t lack for impassioned advice: Among his staff members is Samantha Power, a human-rights expert who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book chronicling American foreign-policy responses to genocide.”

New “Libyan Transitional National Council” calling for air strikesRebels in east Libya set up crisis committee | Reuters: “The council repeated its call for foreign air strikes to help dislodge the man who has been in power for 41 years and has used warplanes and helicopters against rebel forces….Speaking at a news conference, the head of the national council, ex-Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said the body did not want foreign troops on Libyan soil and had sufficient forces to liberate the country….‘Our people have the numbers and the determination toliberate all of Libya, but we will ask for air strikes to help us do this in the shortest possible time’.”

“Senator: Army could train Libyan opposition in anti-aircraft defense,” Adam Levine, CNN, 03 March 2011: Senator Joseph Lieberman—“While we’re considering the no-fly zone, and I hear all the concerns about how it would be … another alternative I’m raising is that we might provide the Libyan opposition with the capacity to defend themselves from Gadhafi’s aircraft.”

“Opposing view: A moral obligation to intervene,” Jamie M. Fly, USA Today, 04 March 2011: “A no-fly zone enforced by the U.S. and key allies does not require the approval of the United Nations Security Council. The no-fly zones over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and NATO’s 1999 war with Serbia over Kosovo did not have the council’s explicit blessing. It is in our interest to see the Libyan people free themselves from Gadhafi’s brutal reign. We should thus explore all possible options to do so, including arming the opposition so they are not slaughtered by regime forces. Gadhafi’s days are over. It is just a matter of time until he is forced from power. The question is whether we will stand on the sidelines and continue to watch thousands be killed in protracted fighting or whether we will ensure that his departure is hastened and casualties minimized. Intervening is a moral obligation for the United States — a moral obligation we’ve all too often ignored in similar cases in the past, with disastrous consequences. This time we need to get it right. It’s time for President Obama to lead.”

Libyan ambassador: The U.S. must do more to stop Qaddafi’s massacre,” David Kenner, Foreign Policy, 04 March 2011: “Libyan Ambassador to the United States Ali Aujali, who joined the opposition in the early days of the crisis, issued an urgent plea for the United States to take more aggressive eactions against the Libyan government in an interview with Foreign Policy today. Aujali strongly supported the implementation of a no-flyzone over Libya, calling it ‘a historic responsibility for the United States.’ He also criticized the arguments about the risks of no-fly zone, which have been made by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other military officials. ‘When we say, for example, that the no-fly zone will take a long time, that it is complicated — please don’t give this regime any time to crush the Libyan people,’ he said.”

“Gaddafi bombs oil areas, Arabs study peace plan,” Mohammed Abbas, Reuters, 03 March 2011: “Opposition activists called for a no-fly zone, echoing a demand by Libya’s deputy U.N. envoy, who now opposes Gaddafi. ‘Bring Bush! Make a no fly zone, bomb the planes,’ shouted soldier-turned-rebel Nasr Ali, referring to a no-fly zone imposed on Iraq in 1991 by then President George Bush. But perhaps mindful of a warning by Gaddafi that foreign intervention could cause ‘another Vietnam,’ Western officials expressed caution about any sort of military involvement including the imposition of a no-fly zone….”

“Arabs may impose Libya no fly zone: International concern grows over violence in Libya with Arab state ministers saying they could impose a ‘no-fly’ zone,” Al Jazeera English, 02 March 2011: “The Arab League has said it may impose a ‘no fly’ zone on Libya in co-ordination with the African Union if fighting continues in Libya. Wednesday’s Arab League ministers’ meeting in Cairo rejected any direct outside military intervention in Libya…”

“ICC to launch Libya probe: The ICC probe will look into the killing of civilians by Gaddafi’s forces during Libya’s uprising,” Al Jazeera English, 02 March 2011: “The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he will open a formal investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Libya….The announcement was an unprecedentedly swift reaction to the violent crackdown on anti-government protests by Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, and his supporters. Prosecutors often take months and sometimes years to decide whether to open an investigation into possible war crimes….”

“Are sanctions enough? We ask what the international community can do to protect the Libyan people,” Inside Story, Al Jazeera English, 01 March 2011: “On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose financial sanctions on the regime of Muammar Gaddafi and to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court. And in an attempt to strengthen this decision, foreign ministers met in Geneva on Monday at a UN Human Rights Council to discuss the future of Libya. But also on the agenda – what action should be taken against Gaddafi and his regime for human rights violations against the Libyan people. But with Gaddafi threatening to cleanse the country house by house, are words enough to protect unarmed Libyan civilians?”

“Britain considers Libya no-fly zone: David Cameron says military intervention including arming rebels could be needed to stop Gaddafi ‘murdering’ his people,” Al Jazeera English, 01 March 2011: “David Cameron, the British prime minister, has said the international community cannot let Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ‘murder’ his own people, as he justified considerations for a no-fly zone over the riot-torn country. ‘It’s not acceptable that Colonel Gaddafi can be murdering his own people, using aeroplanes and helicopters gunships … and we have to plan now to make sure that if it happens we can do something to stop that,’ he said on Tuesday. If he starts taking that sort of action we might need to have a no-fly zone in place very quickly’….”

“Exile an option for Gaddafi: White House—Nothing is off the table against Gaddafi: Clinton,” Al Arabiya, 28 February 2011: “…The United States had said it was prepared to offer ‘any kind of assistance’ to Libyans seeking to overthrow Gaddafi as his opponents piece together a transitional body comprising representatives from the liberated cities….”

“EU approves wide sanctions against Libya,” John Heilprin and Bradley Klapper, Associated Press, 28 February 2011: “The European Union slapped its own arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions Monday on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, part of an escalating global effort to halt a bloody crackdown on his critics in the North African nation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came to Geneva on Monday to press EU diplomats, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, for stronger action against Gadhafi’s regime….”

“Libya quashes protest in Tripoli; West to aid east,” Maggie Michael, Associated Press, 28 February 2011: “ ‘We’ve been reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well,’ Clinton said. ‘I think it’s way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but we’re going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States.’ Two U.S. senators said Washington should recognize and arm a provisional government in rebel-held areas of eastern Libya and impose a no-fly zone over the area — enforced by U.S. warplanes — to stop attacks by the regime. But Fillon said a no-fly zone needed U.N. support ‘which is far from being obtained today’.”

“Security Council imposes sanctions on Libyan authorities in bid to stem violent repression,” UN News Centre, 26 February 2011: “The Security Council today voted unanimously to impose sanctions against the Libyan authorities, slapping the country with an arms embargo and freezing the assets of its leaders, while referring the ongoing violent repression of civilian demonstrators to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In its Resolution 1970, the Council obligated all United Nations Member States to ‘freeze without delay all funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories, which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the individuals or entities’ listed in resolution. The Council imposed a travel ban on President Muammar Al-Qadhafi and other senior figures in his administration, including some members of his family and other relatives. ‘All Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition,’ according to the arms embargo clause of the resolution….”

United Nations Webcast: “Security Council Meeting,” 26 February 2011: Peace and security in Africa and other matters including the situation in Libya. Adoption of Resolution 1970 imposing sanctions on the Libyan regime.

Security Council–SC/10187–Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York: Security Council, 6491st Meeting: In Swift, Decisive Action, Security Council Imposes Tough Measures on Libyan Regime, Adopting Resolution 1970 in Wake of Crackdown on Protesters”: “Many expressed hope that the resolution was a strong step in affirming the responsibility of States to protect their people as well as the legitimate role of the Council to step in when they failed to meet that responsibility…. Recalling the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect its population….

“Libya needs a multilateral response,” Michael O’Hanlon, Politico, 25 February 2011: “One thing that both Iraq and Afghanistan have again demonstrated is the potential for war not to go as planned — even when we think all major factors line up in our favor…. With Libya, there is a considerable possibility that if we were to impose no fly zones and no drive zones, Qadhafi would not only threaten any Americans still in Libya, but he would intensify — rather than scale back — the pace of killing of his own citizens…. So we would have had to consider the possibility of needing to put forces on the streets of Tripoli to defeat parts of the Libyan army; the African mercenaries and thugs whom Qadhafi cultivated over the years….”

“NATO to hold urgent talks on Libya,” Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press, 25 February 2011: “NATO’s main decision-making body holds an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss Libya’s unrest, and the alliance may discuss deploying ships and surveillance aircraft to the Mediterranean, officials said. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who chairs meetings of the North Atlantic Council, has said the alliance does not intend to intervene in Libya, that it has received no such requests to do that, and that such an action would require a U.N. mandate….”

“NATO Secretary General’s statement on the situation in Libya,” NATO, 24 February 2011: “I do not consider the situation in Libya a direct threat to NATO or NATO Allies, but, of course, there may be negative repercussions. Such upheaval may have a negative impact on migration, refugees, etc., and that also goes for neighbouring countries….”

“Crisis alert: The Responsibility to Protect in Libya,” 23 February 2011, responsibilitytoprotect.org: An extensive collection of calls for action in Libya from a wide range of human rights organizations.

“It’s Time To Intervene: What the international community can do to support regime change in Libya,” Shadi Hamid, Slate Magazine, 23 February 2011: “What can be done? This is a time for bold, creative policy-making. For starters, NATO should quickly move to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, both to send a strong message to the regime and to prevent the use of helicopters and planes to bomb and strafe civilians. The United States and European allies should freeze the assets of senior Libyan officials and consider other targeted sanctions. Meanwhile, the international community should also let it be known that any individuals involved in perpetrating atrocities will be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court, while regime figures who defect to the opposition will be granted amnesty. If the conflict threatens to spill over into outright civil war, and the death toll reaches into the tens of thousands, the United Nations will need to consider more advanced measures, including authorizing the deployment of peacekeeping troops to protect civilian populations in the eastern part of the country….The ‘responsibility to protect’ provides further grounds for action. During the 2005 U.N. World Summit, member states unanimously affirmed that ‘each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.’ In Paragraph 139 of the summit outcome document, states affirmed their readiness to take collective action ‘in a timely and decisive manner’ if nations ‘manifestly fail’ to protect their populations from crimes against humanity….”

“On Libya we can’t let ourselves be scarred by Iraq: The international community must get over the foolishness of the 2003 invasion, and take swift action against Gaddafi,” Ian Birrell, The Guardian, 23 February 2011: “It is like an apocalyptic Hollywood film. There are even rumours of systematic male rape in this elegant city of jacaranda trees and Italianate buildings. Who knows what is true and what is false, only that there is a whirlwind of terror amid a media blackout as the people of Libya try to overthrow the despot who has ruined their country these past 41 years….The international community may be forced to make a choice: does it sit back and prevaricate while people are massacred, as it has so often in the past. Or does it refuse to be scarred by the foolishness of the Iraq invasion and show that it can act when there is unacceptable barbarism….”

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: “Open Statement on the Situation in Libya, 22 February 2011: “United Nations (UN) member states must uphold their 2005 commitment to the responsibility to protect (R2P) and take immediate action to protect the population of Libya from mass atrocities….”

“24 rights groups urge US and EU to confront Libyan massacres in UN Security Council and Human Rights Council,” UN Watch, Global Post, 20 February 2011: “The letter asserts that the widespread atrocities committed by Libya against its own people are ‘particularly odious’ actions that amount to war crimes, requiring member states to take action through the Security Council under the responsibility to protect doctrine….”

EMPIRE AT WORK

“Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters,” Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Rahimi, The New York Times, 02 March 2011: “Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents, according to a statement on Wednesday by NATO, which apologized for the mistake. The boys, who were 9 to 15 years old, were attacked on Tuesday in what amounted to one of the war’s worst cases of mistaken killings by foreign-led forces. The victims included two sets of brothers. A 10th boy survived.”

“Egypt, Serbia, Georgia… The History of US Sponsored ‘Democratization’,” Eric Walberg, Global Research.ca, 03 March 2011: “Central to Egypt’s revolution was a tiny group of Serbian activists Otpor (resistance), who adapted nonviolent tactics of in the late 1990s and successfully forced Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic to resign in 2000. Egyptian youth in the 6 April Youth Movement even adopted their clenched fist symbol, bringing Otpor…”

“Angelina Jolie visits schoolgirls in Afghanistan,” Ann Oldenburg, USA Today, 03 March 2011: “Jolie visited families and presented education materials to local schoolgirls in Qala Gudar village, where she will fund a new girls primary school, outside Kabul. The lack of a proper classroom means most girls now can’t study beyond fourth grade. Jolie also paid for a school in the remote returnee settlement of Tangi in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, according to the UNHCR.”

“In one of final addresses to Army, Gates describes vision for military’s future,” Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, 25 February 2011: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

“The militarization of aid and its perils,” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 22 February 2011: “…For the International Committee of the Red Cross, the question is not whether the military can contribute to humanitarian efforts; it, for example, has an obligation under international humanitarian law to evacuate wounded civilians. Aid becoming part of counter-insurgency strategies, however, is much more problematic. I have never forgotten a press statement issued by international forces in Afghanistan a couple of years ago emphasizing that humanitarian assistance was helping them and Afghan forces win the ‘fight against terrorism’….”

“Business as usual for David Cameron and merchants of death,” John Kamfner, The Guardian, 22 February 2011: “When Robin Cook tried to tighten rules on British arms sales to dodgy regimes in 1997 he was told by Tony Blair’s team to grow up….This is one area where the boardroom and the unions are in harmony, and one that does not change whatever the government. Britain is a market leader in fighter jets, electric batons, sub-machine guns and teargas. Why add to the jobless total for the sake of morals? If we don’t sell the kit someone else will….”

“Petraeus Accuses Afghan Parents of Burning Kids to Make US Look Bad: Attempt to Downplay Kunar Massacre Sparks Outrage,” Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, 21 February 2011: “One would think that the effort to downplay the killings of as many as 64 civilians, including a large number of children, would be enough to spark considerable anti-US outrage, but apparently Gen. David Petraeus saw an opportunity to make things even worse, and took it. In a closed door meeting aimed at explaining why they had killed so many civilians, Gen. Petraeus actually accused parents in the region of burning their own children in an attempt to raise the death count and make the US look bad….”

“All-American Decline in a New World: Wars, Vampires, Burned Children, and Indelicate Imbalances,” by Tom Engelhardt, 25 February 2011: “This is a global moment unlike any in memory, perhaps in history. Yes, comparisons can be made to the wave of people power that swept Eastern Europe as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989-91. For those with longer memories, perhaps 1968 might come to mind, that abortive moment when, in the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere, including Eastern Europe, masses of people mysteriously inspired by each other took to the streets of global cities to proclaim that change was on the way. For those searching the history books, perhaps you’ve focused on the year 1848 when, in a time that also mixed economic gloom with novel means of disseminating the news, the winds of freedom seemed briefly to sweep across Europe.  And, of course, if enough regimes fall and the turmoil goes deep enough, there’s always 1776, the American Revolution, or 1789, the French one, to consider.  Both shook up the world for decades after. But here’s the truth of it: you have to strain to fit this Middle Eastern moment into any previous paradigm, even as — from Wisconsin to China – it already threatens to break out of the Arab world and spread like a fever across the planet.  Never in memory have so many unjust or simply despicable rulers felt quite so nervous — or possibly quite so helpless (despite being armed to the teeth) — in the presence of unarmed humanity.  And there has to be joy and hope in that alone….”